The Weak Call
The Weak Call in Position
You’re playing in a ring game, and call a raise to $10 with on the button. The flop comes , and your opponent makes a pot-sized $20 bet. What do you do?
“This is a standard pass, right?” I hear you say. You have nine high and just a gutshot. Yes, it is a standard pass, and it is not great to get into the habit of calling too much here. However, there are some situations where a call in position with a weak hand like this can turn into a very strong play…
Some beginners would often play on here, as they are unable to resist the temptation of calling when they have any kind of draw. Good players learn that pot odds tell them to fold, but strangely you will see many experts build this kind of call into their game for different reasons.
There are a number of different things that may happen that will allow you to take the pot, and they basically rely on the two building blocks of aggressive poker:
• More flops miss your opponent’s hand than hit it
• An interesting card on the turn (here for example any club, ace or jack) is more likely to weaken your opponent’s hand than strengthen it.
There is of course then the slight bonus that you may hit your hand. Although this is not likely, in this kind of situation a ten to make the gutshot straight would be a both well disguised and sweet card to hit.
Let’s have a look at the factors that need to be in place in order to make this strange kind of call:-
• There needs to be only one opponent left in the pot, and the whole move depends entirely on the fact that you are in position. With no real hand yourself, the call relies on you reading your opponent for weakness on a later street, and swooping to steal the pot. If he was bluffing, he may well check and allow you to make a bet which looks like you flopped something. Moreover, there are a number of scare cards that can come- principally a third club, but also any queen, king or ace to put a second big card on the board would be bad news for our opponent if he held a pocket pair type hand.
• You are not betting blind on these cards- you are using the fact that your opponent is first to speak, and hoping that he will throw up a clue to whether the turn is indeed a scare card for him. Therefore, it is crucial that you have some kind of read that this is the type of opponent who will provide a clue. A mega-aggressive opponent is useless, as he will often continue betting big without a hand, and a player who routinely overvalues their hand will be problematic too. (Against these type of players, you actually want to use the flat-call only when you flop a very big hand, as they are likely to get trapped into paying you off.)
• The crucial projection to make is what you think your opponent will do if the most interesting card like the comes, making the board . Principally, you need some kind of feeling for what your opponent will do if he does hold the flush here. Many players would bet half the pot with a flush to encourage action, and would do the same thing for different reasons with a hand like . This is no good to you- you need some inkling from your opponent that a bet like this is very likely to be a scared bet. Then, despite still holding nothing, you can apply the pressure with a re-raise.
• This type of bluff is both a daring and difficult one to pull, as it is a situation on the turn where your opponent may still call despite believing he is beaten, say with a hand like . You need to have the courage to put together a two stage bluff if the river leaves the opportunity open for you.
Let’s have a look at some of the other turn situations that you may use to your advantage. Remember your hand is – though most of the time it will remain useless!
1) . Although your opponent has bet on the flop, he is the original raiser and it is far from guaranteed that he has a jack- especially now that there are just two left out. You, however, have a decent claim to have a jack in your hand, having made the call on the turn. If your opponent checks, a bet may not be enough to persuade him to pass his hand; your opponent will hand you the real opportunity if he makes a scared-looking small bet. Now, a re-raise from you will demand a lot more respect.
2) . This is possibly the turn card which will give you the most opportunities for cunning, as it the card most likely to provoke an honest reaction from your opponent. The ace is a card that may well help his hand, but if it does, most opponents will let you know this with a good sized bet. If your opponent acts more weakly, seize on the opportunity. He may well hold a hand like or , which becomes very difficult to call with on this board.
3) . The ground is getting more shaky when you try to use a card like a queen here, but there could still be an opportunity in the right circumstances. Let’s say our opponent holds ; this is the hand most likely for him to make a confident bet on the flop and slightly less sure bet on the turn. Although he has a good hand, you may be able to read that it is exactly one like this. A re-raise and maybe a subsequent river bet will make it very difficult for your opponent to find a call. Your advantage is that you have to chance to construct a very strong looking move. Your re-raise is backed up by the fact that you called a pot sized bet on the flop. It is this call that is the key to the play, as it (falsely!) says that you actually have something.
You will see that in most of these situations, the success of our move depends on our opponent doing enough thinking to talk himself into passing. The ideal type of opponent to target is one who is a decent solid player, but has shown some tendency to overthink or played scared. It is in ‘live’ tournaments, especially where the play is solid around the pressure points, that you will have most success in persuading your opponent to pass a strong hand.
These kind of moves are definately on the borderline between cunning and outright foolishness. They are probably not worth pulling in a big situation until you have fine-tuned the move and seen what works for you.
Let your motivation for exploring be this though. Imagine the situation from your opponent’s point of view:-
• Playing out of position, you feel uncertain on a lot of flops when your bet is called.
• There are many scare cards that may improve the other player’s hand on the turn and do nothing to help yours
• A re-raise on the turn could well signal even more pressure to come on the river.
How to play against this type of opponent
Thinking about how this kind of move can be effective of course throws up some thoughts of how best to counter it and play against it.
It can often be hard to see when this is going on. However, if you ever see a good player make too many calls, or turn over a nothing hand with which he has made a bizarre call on a previous street, then you may be on to this type of player. Here are some ways to both avoid the dangers, and to take advantage, of this style of play.
• If someone may be making a call on the flop to try to take you off the hand, it is most difficult when you hold a marginal hand with something like on a board. You cannot be at all sure that your opponent is making this type of move- he could be making a genuine call with a pair or better. The best way to combine these two possibilities in your opponent’s hand is to turn your hand into a bluff. Make another big bet on the turn, and he may well be forced to throw away a better hand- for example, , , or even a top pair hand like .
The best opportunities against this type of player of course come when you hold a massive hand on the turn. Make the most of your opponent’s eagerness to bet big on the hand by making what you think looks like the weakest possible action- this will often be a check, but against some players a small or even tiny bet will tempt them into making a move that they should not.
Good luck at the online poker tables, and, most of all, have fun!